Native American tribal lands have “enormous potential for renewable energy,” according to a study by Global Energy Network Institute. Enter the Council of Energy Resource Tribes (CERT), a group of 57 Native American tribes, and its recently announced agreement with BioJet and Tartoosh Environmental to develop bioenergy and biofuels projects on tribal lands in California. The agreement is for 10 to 15 years and would provide up to $3 billion in funding. Called the “Thunderbird” project, a press releaseby BioJet describes it as a “multifeedstock, multi-technology set of projects.” The announcement also states that Thunderbird is “seen to create significant economic activity, jobs, and capital investment opportunities in the field of renewables.” CERT, BioJet and Tartoosh have each agreed to donate 10 percent of their net profits to the CERT TRIBES Education Program.
The goals of the Thunderbird project are the following:
- Utilize over 750,000 acres of agricultural projects to be used as biofuel feedstock with coproducts used as animal feed.
- Utilize existing bioenergy feedstocks.
- Utilize existing alternative fuel feedstocks.
- Utilize algae feedstocks as they be come technically and economically feasible.
- Refine and convert feedstocks to approximately 250 million gallons a year of bio jet fuel, and approximately 300 million gallons a year of synthetic jet or diesel fuel.
- Develop approximately 10 biorefinery plants.
- Convert waste biomass to high value energy products to be used in food production, green power, ethanol, or biochemicals and lignin to supplement coal in power and heat generation.
- Develop approximately five waste-to-energy plants for the biomass conversion projects.
- Create Integrated Renewable Energy Parks where possible utilizing multiple renewable energy sources.
CERT’s 57 member tribes have 30 percent of the coal west of the Mississippi River, 40 percent of the known uranium reserves, nine percent of known oil and gas reserves and renewables, according to CERT Executive Director, David Lester.
“CERT exists and operates, as the federal courts have held, as an ‘Indian League of Nations’ for its sovereign tribal members. CERT’s goal is to help our sovereign Indian tribal members build sustainable, balanced and self-governed economies in accordance with each Indian tribe’s vision and priority…We remain committed to charting new courses of development that serve the needs of our members,” Lester said.
One California tribe already has already developed renewable energy on its lands. The Campo Band of the Kumeyaay Indians in San Diego County built a 50 megawatt (MW) wind farm in 2005. The wind farm, which consists of 25 turbines, currently produces enough power a year for about 30,000 homes and saves about 110,000 tons a year in greenhouse gas emissions. It is the first commercial-scale wind farm on tribal land. The turbines are maintained under contract with Enxco, Inc. According to the DOE website, the Campo Band plans to develop a 300 MW wind energy project, called Kumeyaay Wind II, in two phases over the next two to five years. Phase I will consist of 160 MW.